Ministers are considering a transfer from over-large DETR to Department of Trade and Industry.
Government responsibility for construction could pass from the DETR to the Department of Trade and Industry under plans being considered by ministers.

Whitehall sources say the switch may be part of a departmental shake-up pencilled in for after a May election. The reorganisation is expected to include the break up of the DETR.

One lobbyist close to Whitehall said many critics took the view that the DETR was too large and had failed to handle transport affairs properly.

"There is a fundamental review of the DETR. Politically, it's been a hot potato. This move would see more power for transport and also a push for more power in the regions." Another source said recent policy developments within the DTI would make it a natural home for construction.

He said: "Construction fits into the DTI. The DTI is now looking at more environmental issues that would fit into new ideas of sustainable construction." Construction lobbyists said that a move to the DTI would allay criticisms from trade bodies that DTI initiatives ignored construction. One lobbyist said: "There is a bit of concern that we are forgotten when DTI looks at policy or initiatives." An alternative scenario is that the DETR would lose its transport brief and that construction would find itself in an expanded environment department.

There is a fundamental review of the DETR. Politically, it’s been a hot potato

DETR source

The lobbyist said that his main concern was over which minister would be looking after construction, rather than which department it would be in. There has been widespread speculation that Nick Raynsford would be given a post in the Foreign Office in a new Labour government.

He said: "We need someone who takes an active role and interest in the industry, which Nick Raynsford has done." The reorganisation could also include the setting up of a separate rural affairs ministry.

Sources said post-election reorganisations were inherently difficult to predict.